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King Street-Bradlee Safety and Mobility Enhancements Project area (image via City of Alexandria)

The Department of Transportation and Environmental Services (T&ES) is hosting an open house next week on safety enhancements planned for King Street.

T&ES is planning a series of changes along King Street near the Bradlee Shopping Center. A community meeting to discuss the changes is scheduled for 5-7 p.m. on  Thursday, Feb. 15, at the Fairlington Presbyterian Church (3846 King Street).

Feedback collected by the city said the roadway is currently confusing and not very pedestrian friendly, with crosswalks on only one side of the street and some confusing intersection design, according to a presentation from city staff.

The changes, first announced late last year, could include bike lanes and more sidewalks along the road.

The plans to improve that stretch of King Street are particularly timely, with Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) leaders expressing concern about pedestrian safety in the area, especially with students walking back and forth between the two Alexandria City High School campuses.

The design process is set to kick off this spring and will run through Spring 2027.

An Alexandria Police cruiser (Staff photo by James Cullum)

The Alexandria Police Department arrested four teens for a robbery and assault at the Bradlee Shopping Center (3646 King Street) last month.

The victim, also a teenager, was bleeding from the face after being punched near the McDonald’s around 8:40 a.m., according to scanner traffic. The victim told police the suspect took his shoes and wallet. The victim was transported to the hospital.

“Two juvenile city residents were charged with assault and two other juvenile city residents were charged with robbery and assault,” police said in a release.

Police confirmed to ALXnow that the suspects were “in their late teens.”

The Bradlee Shopping Center McDonald’s has been a hot spot for crime, with multiple assaults and the murder of Alexandria City High School student Luis Mejia Hernandez in 2022.

Alexandria City Public Schools leadership said earlier this year they would crack down on truancy and students skipping school at the Bradlee Shopping Center, while the Alexandria Police Department said it would be increasing its presence at the shopping center after school hours.

The incident is still under investigation and anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Michael Whelan via phone at 703 746 6228, email at [email protected], or call the non-emergency number at 703 746 4444.

Alexandria Police at night (staff photo by James Cullum)

The Alexandria Police Department is investigating a robbery at the Bradlee Shopping Center this morning just before 9 a.m. that left one victim injured.

According to scanner traffic, the victim was bleeding from the face after being punched near the McDonalds on the 3600 block of King Street. Scanner traffic said the suspect may have taken the victim’s shoes and wallet.

The Bradlee Shopping Center has seen multiple violent incidents including the murder of 18-year-old Luis Mejia Hernandez, though local business owners said some of that had settled in recent months.


(Updated at 8:30 p.m.) A 17-year-old former Alexandria City High School student was sentenced Thursday to five years with the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice for the 2022 murder of 18-year-old Luis Mejia Hernandez in the parking lot of the Bradlee Shopping Center, with one of those years already served.

Ryan Vega was 16 when he fatally stabbed Hernandez during a melee with dozens of ACHS students in the parking lot. In a two-day June bench trial, Judge James C. Clark found Vega guilty of second-degree murder and murder by mob, and said that Vega took advantage of his time behind bars at the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center by exhibiting good behavior and doing well with school.

“It appears to your credit, Mr. Vega, that you have taken advantage of your time,” Clark said before announcing the sentence. “In making this decision, I cannot ignore the harm of your actions. If I thought a life sentence would bring Luis back, I’d do it.”

Clark sentenced Vega to remain in the juvenile detention center until he is 21, in addition to 10 years suspended with the Virginia Department of Corrections and five years of supervised probation. He’s already been in jail for 17 months, putting the total sentence for the homicide at approximately five years behind bars by the time he is released.

He must also continue behavioral therapy and have no contact with the victim’s family.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney David Lord asked Clark for a 30-year sentence in an adult prison, with 10 years suspended. Lord said Vega was addicted to fentanyl at the time of the incident and was part of a disturbing trend of young people living on the edge.

“Part of justice involves answering that pain by the imposing of justice by this court,” Lord said in his closing argument.

Vega, who wore black sneakers, dark slacks and a gray sweater on top of a blue button-up shirt, kept his head down as he read a statement to the court. He said that the events of May 24, 2022 never stop running through his head and that he wishes he could turn back the clock.

“I am deeply and terribly sorry for the pain and loss I have caused your family,” Vega said, after being admitted to address the victim’s family. “Please know I will always pray for your family and Luis until my final breath.”

Vega said in another statement to the court that he spent sleepless nights staring at the ceiling of the juvenile detention center and that he was “remorseful beyond comprehension.” His attorneys Sebastian Norton and Sean Sherlock said that he wrote letters to Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson asking for more books in the detention center, and that he has distinguished himself as a leader behind bars.

Osmin Mejia Romero, the victim’s father, was upset by the sentence.

“This sentence is nothing,” Mejia Romero said. “It’s not a good situation. I wanted him in jail for 30 years, and I waited more than a year for this. His apology means nothing. He’s a liar.”

Mayor Wilson said he never saw a letter from Vega and that the Commonwealth’s requested sentence seemed appropriate.

“I did not review the evidence or sit through the trial, but based on my knowledge of the case, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s requested sentence certainly seemed a lot more appropriate to me.”

The stabbing occurred during a brawl between two rival gangs of Alexandria City High School teenagers on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 — a week before graduation on a half-day while students took their Virginia Standards of Learning tests. The fight was over within one minute, and Mejia Hernandez was fatally stabbed in the heart. An autopsy showed that he also had abrasions to his neck, chin, the back of his hands, abdomen and knees, according to court records. The cause of death was a 7/8-inch stab wound to the chest.

Hernandez was given a posthumous diploma at graduation a week later.

Clark said that Vega was likely experiencing opioid withdrawal at the time of the incident.

“I just can’t help observe the defendant’s decision to start using drugs,” he said. “It likely was a significant factor in forming his judgment to be at Bradlee.”

The murder was one of several incidents that resulted in a number of new policies and security enhancements in and around Alexandria City High School, including a metal detector program, increased police patrols in the area, as well as a rule prohibiting kids from frequenting the shopping center during school hours.

Sherlock said that he is thankful for Clark’s “wise” decision.

“We are incredibly remorseful to the family of Luis Hernandez,” Sherlock said. “We’re very thankful for the wisdom of the court and Judge Clark in imposing this sentence, fully taking into account the seriousness of what happened on May 24, while balancing that appropriately with the goals of sentencing and the capabilities of rehabilitation for juveniles.”

Police at the Bradlee Shopping Center where and 18-year-old was stabbed and killed on May 24 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Ahead of the start of the new school year, Alexandria City High School (ACHS) Principal Alexander Duncan issued a warning reminder that students are “discouraged” from going to nearby shopping centers during school hours.

The specific shopping center isn’t named, but it’s no secret that the Bradlee Shopping Center has been afflicted with violence in recent years linked to students from the nearby ACHS. There have been multiple shootings and brawls, including one that ended with the murder of 18-year-old Luis Mejia Hernandez in the parking lot of the Bradlee Shopping Center.

“Students are strongly discouraged from patronizing local shopping centers or establishments during school hours (unless permission has been received per the process shared above),” Duncan said in a message to ACHS students and families. “This constitutes ‘skipping class’ and is in direct violation of our attendance policy and the Student Code of Conduct.”

Duncan said that ACHS is partnering with the Alexandria Police Department and the shopping centers to increase police presence and deter truancy. The new ACHS Principal said the concern is not only about safety and security, but students missing vital instructional time.

“Please be advised that students will face disciplinary consequences by ACHS administration for intentionally missing class to patronize local shopping centers, and will also be held accountable for any behaviors when they are supposed to be in school,” Duncan said. “I am confident that we all agree that our students need to be in their classrooms engaged in learning.”


A 17-year-old was found guilty today for the murder of 18-year-old Luis Mejia Hernandez in the parking lot of the Bradlee Shopping Center.

The tragic killing was, however, just part of a string of violent events that have occurred in the shopping center. There have been multiple shootings at the Bradlee Shopping Center in recent years as well as brawls.

Still, some shop owners say an increased police presence since the murder has helped calm some of the crime in the shopping center. Just this week, WUSA9 reported that Alexandria Police will be increasing their presence at the Bradlee Shopping Center after school lets out.

The Franklin P. Backus Courthouse at 520 King Street in Alexandria (staff photo by James Cullum)

A 17-year-old former Alexandria City High School student was found guilty Tuesday for last year’s fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Luis Mejia Hernandez in the parking lot of the Bradlee Shopping Center.

Judge James C. Clark found the teen guilty of second-degree murder and murder by mob and said that the case is a tragedy for all involved. The defendant sat silently as Clark rendered his decision at the conclusion of the two-day bench trial. He faces between five-to-40 years in prison for the second-degree murder charge and five-to-40 years for the murder by mob, or lynching, charge.

“(The defendant) injected himself into that fight,” Clark said while rendering his verdict, and said that the suspect “made the unspeakably poor decision to approach Mr. Mejia Hernandez and interject himself in a fight he was involved with and stabbed him in the chest.”

Clark continued, “There was clearly a mob in the Bradlee parking lot. (The defendant) injected himself in that fight, not in the heat of passion or out of fear of Luis Mejia Hernandez.”

The stabbing occurred during a brawl between two rival gangs of Alexandria City High School teenagers on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 — a week before graduation. The fight was over within one minute, and Mejia Hernandez was fatally stabbed in the heart. An autopsy showed that he also had abrasions to his neck, chin, the back of his hands, abdomen and knees, according to the medical examiner who testified that the cause of death was a 7/8-inch stab wound to the chest.

“I’m very happy,” said Osmin Mejia Romero, the victim’s father, after Clark announced the verdict.

Defense attorney Sebastian Norton argued that his client acted in self-defense, was frightened and not a member of the mob — all claims that Clark refuted when announcing his verdict. Norton showed still images from videos of the incident revealing Mejia Hernandez winding up his right hand to strike the defendant, and said that the stabbing was “tragically an unlucky shot.”

The defendant told police during his interrogation that two rival gangs, which he dubbed “Chiri” and “West,” agreed to fight that day at the Bradlee Shopping Center.

“(The defendant) reasonably feared death or great bodily harm,” Norton said. “What happened on May 24 was a tragedy.”

Commonwealth’s Attorney David Lord said that the defendant callously found the fight he was looking for.

“Fifty random students of a city high school didn’t meet near the McDonald’s in order to eat cheeseburgers and ice cream,” Lord said. “(The defendant) was looking for a fight that day and he found one.”

The defendant is being held in the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center and will be sentenced on September 28. Clark has the option to sentence him entirely as a juvenile or adult, or combining a juvenile and adult sentence. Clark said that between now and September should give him time to determine the character of the defendant and whether he’s a “gang banger.”


A driver was hospitalized after she drove her car into Robcyns (3660 King Street) at the Bradlee Shopping Center.

The incident occurred around 3:20 p.m., according to the dispatch.

The driver was taken away on a stretcher and told ALXnow they accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake.

“What’s important is that everyone is okay,” said owner Meghan Herzing. “The lady, the driver, is a customer. I know her, and she was crying and profusely apologizing.”

The crash is not even the first of its kind this year: another driver sent their car through the front window of the nearby Tropical Smoothie Cafe in February.

“Over the last six years this has happened to the Hallmark store, the Shoe Repair store, Starbucks and Tropical Smoothie,” Herzig said. A driver also slammed into the front of the Capital One bank branch at the shopping center a few years ago.

The vehicular mayhem at the Bradlee Shopping Center is in addition to a recent shots fired incident, last year’s fatal stabbing, and safety concerns about loitering teenagers among employees at the center.

James Cullum and Vernon Miles contributed to this story

Suspect arrested after shooting near Braddock Road Metro station (staff photo by James Cullum)

Adding police presence to high-crime areas, putting more cops in communities and strategically placing mobile camera units are just a few of the initial strategies that the Alexandria Police Department is employing to confront a crime surge.

APD Assistant Chief Easton McDonald briefed City Council on the uptick on Tuesday night, and also said that there is an increase in juvenile crime and crimes being committed by young people.

“There is an uptick with juveniles,” McDonald told Council. “From April 1 to April 23, there have been approximately 27 encounters with juveniles that have either been charged with illegal weapons possession, drugs with the intent to sell, grand larceny of a vehicle where we had four juveniles that (allegedly) stole a vehicle, fled from the vehicle, and there was a weapon inside the vehicle.”

APD reported 11 shooting incidents this month, including three incidents on Monday, April 17. On that day, a clerk at a 7-Eleven was shot in a robbery in the early morning, followed by a shooting in the 1200 block of Madison Street near the Braddock Road Metro station, and then a shooting near a bus stop at the Bradlee Shopping Center. Three males, ages 17, 18, and 19, were arrested in connection to the Old Town incident and an 18-year-old male suspended from Alexandria City High School was arrested for the shooting at Bradlee, McDonald told Council.

McDonald said APD is forming a new community safety stakeholder group made up of local residents and officials to develop solutions, including outreach regarding available youth programs. The stakeholder group is yet to be named and will meet next month at APD headquarters, McDonald said.

“A weapon should not be in the hands of a teenager,” he said. “They should not be held in bookbags, so the stakeholder group is to get back into the communities to let these individuals know that this is not going to be tolerated. This is not something that can continue, and the (city’s) federal partners are going to deal with those individuals who are felons with guns. And we are arresting felons with guns.”

APD is increasing its presence in high-crime areas, such as the West End and Braddock areas, and plans on returning officers to specific beats, McDonald said. The department will also participate in numerous community cookouts and weekly walks through neighborhoods experiencing crime.

“We plan on working with the community to stop this,” McDonald said. “The goal is to reduce this gun violence.”

Mayor Justin Wilson said that APD can be more aggressive around serving warrants.

“We can be more aggressive around warrant service and things like that, where we’re getting out there and going to find people who we know are in the community that we’re looking for and devoting resources to try and to address some of those things,” he said. “If we can get people off the streets that shouldn’t be on the streets who are at risk of committing crimes, I think that’s always going to be a positive.”

Vice Mayor Amy Jackson said that a recent shooting outside a bus stop in the Bradlee Shopping Center brought back bad memories of last year’s murder of 18-year-old Luis Mejia Hernandez in that same shopping center. Jackson said she’s concerned that Alexandria City High School kids will be congregating at the shopping center in greater numbers in the next couple of weeks as they take their Standards Of Learning (SOL) tests.

“The uptick in crime is a major thing,” Jackson said. “We’re coming up on SOL (Standards Of Learning tests) season. SOL means, if the community is not aware, some kids are in school for a couple hours during the day and then they’re in their classrooms and watching movies and studying for other SOL tests. But most of them will be released and they will not get on yellow buses to go home from the schools. They will get on DASH buses that are free fare. What is the plan for Bradlee, because that is happening in the next two weeks?”

McDonald tried to put the three shooting incidents on April 17 into context by saying that APD responds to 400-to-600 calls for service daily.

“The children have an absolute right to walk into those stores and be in those particular areas,” McDonald said. “We are there. Our presence does prevent crime. There’s always going to be a case where that doesn’t work, but we will be there as fast as we can to mitigate what happens.”

A number of shooting incidents occur in the 1200 block of Madison Street in the Braddock neighborhood, in a property managed by the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority. On April 21, there was another shooting on that same block, prompting Wilson to announce the addition of cameras and police foot patrols to the area.

As previously reported, an ARHA resident told ALXnow that he fears for his son’s life.

“I been here three years next month, and counting today I’ve heard at least 160 gunshots,” the man said. “It’s a lot, man. Right outside my back door. I have a four year old son and I had to train him to run upstairs and duck. I’m glad he’s in school right now. I feel like we’re sitting ducks. Something’s got to be done. I’m trying to get out of here. Nobody should have to live like this.”

Kevin Harris is an ARHA board member, and said he’s happy about the plan by APD.

“I’m happy about the measures the city is taking to mitigate violence and crime throughout the city,” Harris said. “Also, I’m pleased with the measures that the residents of the ARHA in partnership with the organization as a whole have been taking for years to keep our kids and families safe. It’s a grave miscalculation and misunderstanding to think that the families of ARHA’s communities are unconcerned or participants in these acts of violence in their communities. These families are just as concerned as their neighbors.”

After a crime wave in 2020, that fall ARHA’s safety committee made the following recommendations to the police department to reduce crime incidents. Many of the recommendations are in line with APDs current strategy to reduce crime.

  1. Increase police presence in high crime areas by stationing officers in cars in areas that are known for a high volume of loitering to deter criminal activity (specifically for its Samuel Madden, Cameron Valley, and Andrew Adkins properties)
  2. Increase presence by random community walks multiple times per week (specifically Samuel Madden, Cameron Valley, and Andrew Adkins)
  3. Increase positive community engagement such as events for the youth, neighborhood educational workshops (knowing your rights, tips on police engagement, how broken laws affect the community), etc. to build a positive rapport with the community
  4. Improve community relations by door knocking and having informal “meet and greets” with people in the community
  5. Meet with the Safety Committee and provide training and insight on how to report a crime (develop a special way for safety committee members to contact law enforcement)
  6. Create a standing monthly meeting between the Chief of Police and the Chairman of the Safety Committee and/or the leaders of the Safety Committee
  7. Create a police liaison who will act as a bridge between the Safety Committee and APD
  8. Enforce disturbing of the peace after certain hours to limit the late-night partying and drinking that could lead to violence and crime
  9. Provide diversity training for officers with the intent and purpose for them to learn how to police different demographics
  10. Reevaluate tactics for obtaining crime tips (never approach people at home, meet privately away from the community, and create and/or educate people on a discreet way for people to report crimes)
  11. Be more responsive to calls directly from ARHA communities
  12. Create a means to hold Resident Police Officers accountable for properly policing their assigned communities
  13. Create a Citizen’s Police Review Board with representation from various communities throughout the City of Alexandria with at least one representative from the Safety Committee appointed on the board. Sincerely, Loren Depina, Chairperson of the ARHA Resident Association Safety Committee

(Updated 5 p.m.) Police are responding to a shooting near the bus stop at the Bradlee Shopping Center (3660 King Street).

According to the scanner, multiple gunshots were reported by employees at the McDonalds at the Bradlee Shopping Center — where an ACHS student was murdered last year — around 3:40 p.m.

A clerk at 7-Eleven was shot in a robbery earlier this morning and another shooting was reported near the Braddock Road Metro station early this afternoon.

James Cullum contributed to this story
Photo via Google Maps


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